Motorsport is amongst the most watched genres of sport on television in the U.K. This is largely down to Formula 1 of course, but Superbikes, BTCC and the smaller series like the Porsche Cup and GT Championship also bring in decent figures for television companies.
But Motorsport does more for us than just providing viewing pleasure at (mainly) weekends. Lot’s of technologies used on our road going cars parked on driveways up and down the country were first used or developed in Motorsport.
If we think back to road going cars of the 1960’s and 1970’s, it’s fair to say they weren’t always that aerodynamic. In fact, the use of spoilers, let alone splitters, skirts and huge rear wings weren’t really common place until the mid 1980’s at least. But they first saw use in cars on grid to aid down force. Nowadays of course, cars bought from a main dealer can be entirely clad in bodykits and as well as having aerodynamic qualities, they are largely sold because of their attractive aesthetic qualities.
The materials used in the spoilers and splitters of 2019 were also developed on track. Carbon Fibre and Carbon Kevlar is a ultra lightweight but strong composite material that is now commonly seen on road going cars. And not just bodykits either; trim, garnish and engine items like air boxes, covers and the suchlike can all be manufactured from this material. But 20 years ago, this material was incredibly expensive for the average man or woman to use on his or her car. In this modern age, these composite weave materials are almost as common as GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic, or Fibreglass).
Semi automatic and tiptronic type gearboxes were also developed for track use. Many cars now market themselves as semi-automatic or tiptronic (rather than just ‘automatic’) because of the ‘paddles’ that are sometimes used on steering wheels allowing drivers to have a vehicle that doesn’t ‘require’ users to use a clutch and gearbox, but affords some ‘fun’ for those that wish too.
Car safety has been at the forefront of automotive design for a few decades now and kids of the 1980’s will remember cars like the Fiat Panda change the affordable car ownership market by introducing 4 wheel drive to their road going cars. Until then, 4 wheel drive was largely only available for properly designated off road cars. Of course, 4 wheel drive is now common place. But so too is traction control, and it is this technology that was developed at speed, on tracks. Playing a slightly different role from 4 wheel drive, traction control made use of more modern cars ECU’s to manage how the wheels spin, or not, and at what rate. Until ECU’s became common place in vehicles, this was impossible, at least to the degree that traction control and stability management works nowadays. Of course, on track, telematics are fed back from cars on track to the technicians in the pits so they can see at literally every twist and turn of the steering wheel, how the car is performing.
And in terms of ‘feeding back’, we’ll finish by mentioning the black box telematics that are now common place in cars driven by younger drivers. These black boxes measure and score drivers as well as recognise the types of roads that they are on. Fitment of such a box can save drivers up to a reported 37% or so of premium. But, is the technology used, any different from the telematics that have been used for some time in F1 and BTCC etc?